The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Convincing the world of sin …

For the followers of the "enlightened agenda", the Pope becomes persona non grata when he tries to convince the world of human sin. Objections of this sort conflict with that which Saint John expresses in the words of Christ, who announced the coming of the Holy Spirit who "will convince the world in regard to sin" (cf. Jn 16:8). What else can the Church do? Nevertheless, convincing the world of the existence of sin is not the same as condemning it for sinning. "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Convincing the world of sin means creating the conditions for its salvation. Awareness of our own sinfulness, including that which is inherited, is the first condition for salvation; the next is the confession of this sin before God, who desires only to receive this confession so that He can save man. To save means to embrace and lift up with redemptive love, with love that is always greater than any sin. In this regard the parable of the prodigal son is an unsurpassable paradigm.

from: “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” of John Paul II, p.34-35

The loss of the sense of sin stems from the loss of the sense of God, says Benedict XVI.

"Where God is excluded from the public forum," the Pope said, "the sense of offense against God -- the true sense of sin -- dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility."

The Holy Father made his observation today when addressing bishops from the Western Catholic Conference of Canada, who were making their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.

Benedict XVI continued: "When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises."

to follow on: Zenit

Monday, December 25, 2006

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10 Hebrews 1:1-6 John 1:1-18

The Word

We use words as a way of communicating self. And there are many different kinds of words: superficial, deep, constructive, destructive, factual, emotional, funny, sad, encouraging, discouraging, loving, abusive...

God's Word is special. It is creative (as ours too can be). God's Word does not just communicate an idea. It is active; it brings things into existence. Everything that exists flows from the creative Word of God. In a special way it brings into being; it gives life.

Gospel Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,

grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

When our hands are full of mercy and goodness,
when our lips are full with compassionate smiles,
when our hearts are pure, uncomplicated
and receptive like the crib in Bethlehem,
when our lives are honest
and our bread shared with the poor

Then into our homes will enter
the Blessing of the Newborn Child
and we will meet Him in all our brothers

and we will feel God's presence among us
and see His glory in our lives.
25.XII. Christmas – Midnight

Well known history of The Christmas Truce of the I World World

The Christmas truce of 1914 is one of the most remarkable incidents of World War I and perhaps of military history. It lasted as long as a week, and took place despite orders that those who fraternized with the enemy would be shot.

It is the Christmas Eve 1914. Not far for Ypres in Belgium in the trenches the soldiers of two armies German and English are preparing their first Christmas celebration out of their countries. English soldiers get from the 17 years old princess Mary nice boxes with candies and cigarettes, German soldiers get also the gifts of chocolates and cigars from their Kaiser Wilhelm.

British Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote that on one part of the line the Germans had managed to slip a chocolate cake into British trenches.

Even more amazingly, it was accompanied with a message asking for a ceasefire later that evening so they could celebrate the Christmas and their Captain's birthday. They proposed a concert at 7.30pm when candles, the British were told, would be placed on the parapets of their trenches.

The British accepted the invitation and offered some tobacco as a return present. That evening, at the stated time, German heads suddenly popped up and started to sing “Stille Naht”, “O Tannenbaum” and other German carols. Each number ended with a round of applause from both sides.

The soldiers started to go out of the trenches and to meet one another in no-man's land. Men exchanged gifts and buttons. In one or two places soldiers who had been barbers in civilian times gave free haircuts. One German, a juggler and a showman, gave a performance of his routine in the centre of no-man's land.

Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, in his famous account, remembered the approach of four unarmed Germans at 08.30. He went out to meet them with one of his soldiers. 'Their spokesmen,' Hulse wrote, 'started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a happy Christmas,

Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc.

Finally they sing Latin carol „Adeste fideles”. For few hours peace won in the middle of the most atrocious War.

One, older German soldier asked:

“Why we can not simply cease this stupid and hopeless war and go home, to seat with our families and enjoy the nativity of Christ, Who is the King of peace?” Sergeant Tom from the Scots Guards answered: “You have to ask this question to your Keiser Wilhelm”.
And the German soldier reaction was: “No we have to ask first at all our hearts”.

I think that it is a good time for us to ask the same question in our hearts.

Why we can not simply cease this stupid and hopeless unending war in our lives, seat with our families and enjoy the nativity of Christ, Who is the King of peace?”

In our age of uncertainty, it is comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer.

Are we able to do the same?

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, How much do I owe you?

You don't owe me anything, she replied. "Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness."
He said..... "Then I thank you from my heart."

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also.
Many years later that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled! They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease. Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.

Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case. After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words.....

"Paid in full with one glass of milk. Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness." (Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.

Blessed are you among women

The service of Mary at Elizabeth’s house is full of humility and sincerity; it is natural and human because Mary is human, humble and sincere. It is, maybe for this reason that we are surprised and embarrassed hearing about this, because our life became already too complicated and not sincere and not humble. God won’t from us any kind of a special and extraordinary actions and activities. He became a man in the simplicity and even austerity of a manger; He lived among us accepting all human conditions and limitations but sin, and He gave us the natural human feelings and emotions like sincerity, honesty, genuineness, openness, cordiality, helpfulness, kindness. And finally He expects that all this will be an experience of our daily life. He gave us even His own Mother to be our Mother with all her maternal tenderness.

This we can see in today’s Gospel when Mary is visiting Elizabeth to help her older aunt, because Mary understands, is compassionate and kind in all her acts. She comes to help, to be useful, to serve and to be careful, vigilant, and watchful. She will be the same during the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This is Mary, the Mother of God.

And Jesus … Even before he is born, He already comes to serve and not to be served. It is through service we will recognize him as Lord. Later on he will tell his disciples, "You call me Master and Lord and you are right and yet I am the one who washes your feet. You go and do the same" (John 13:13-15). Today’s Gospel is certainly teaching us how to be sincere and helpful, cordial and kind. How to say each day “Yes” to all and everybody I am encountering in may daily life?

It’s a kind of invitation to follow. Jesus does not only do all this for us while we sit back and wait to be "saved". He invites us to say with him to the Father: "Here I am! I am coming to obey your will."

We are about to celebrate Christmas very soon, this very night. Probably all our other preparations have been made or we are up to our eyes making them. But have we made the most important preparation of all? Yes, to the Father, Yes, to Jesus, Yes to all that we will experience in the coming year, Yes to every call that God makes and will make of us, Yes to everybody whom I will meet in my life?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

III Sunday of Advent

17.12.2006 III Sunday of Advent

The joy of Gaudete SundayRejoice Sunday is only comprehensible if we do prepare our paths for God. first and second readings are announcing this joy because of the coming of our King and our Lord. The Gospel is showing us on what our joy should be founded. Rejoice Sundayis telling us not about an empty and meaningless or superficial joy which we can find in the world, but rather about the joy which is the effect of the internal conviction of the justice andhonesty of my life. I can and I will be truly joyful only if my conscience will not reproach me for anything.

What should we do? What should I do?

This Sundays Gospel once more presents John the Baptist. He has a particular place of honor in our tradition. He was the kinsman of the Lord. He was the forerunner, the one who said that the Messiah was coming. He is the one who pointed to Jesus and called him the Lamb of God. He was the one who lived as a radical prophet, wearing animal skins and eating locusts and demanding a radical change in the way people lived. Our generation likes to closeeyes to this aspect of Johns life, but it is this aspect, this demand for continual and radical change, that fascinated the people of the centuries.

In todays Gospel the people gather around John and ask, What is it that we should do? not "What should others do to prepare for the Kingdom?" They do not ask howthe government should change to prepare for the Kingdom nor how the church should change to prepare for the Kingdom, but, simply and perhaps what is more difficult, "What should I do?"

John told the people to be charitable. They should give the poor their surplus. The tax collectors were told to be honest, not using their positions to enrich themselves. The soldiers were told to stop harassing and intimidating people.

John the Baptist challenged the people to be loving. He also challenges us. He challenges us to adopt a whole new attitude in life, an attitude of sacrificial love. This is the love that others will witness in us as a sign that the Kingdom of God is near. St. Paul put it this way to the Philippians. Let your gentleness be known to everyone, for the Lord is near.

What is it we should do to prepare for the Lord? The first thing we should do is to look at how we treat other people and then make an effort to be kind, considerate, loving, just and honest.

Bruno Ferrero in his small book Sunshine tells a short story about a monk who once, while walking through the forest, observedthe bird of one species was feeding the sick young of a bird of another species. The monk was astonished at first because it was rather strange that onewouldanother in this way.

But finally he said:

OK. God is giving me a sign. If even animalscare of other animals, so God is showing me that whatever happens, He will certainly always send somebody to help me. It is notthat Iso muchmy daily needs. Whatthen should I do? I dont need to take such care of myself, butshouldand absolutely relyGods help.

Then he stopped doing anything. He just sat in the forest for many days waiting forhelp. Many days later he was so exhausted that he was unable to even lift up his hand. Very weak, he fell asleep and indream he saw an angel, who was looking at him very angrily so the monk stood up and started to reprimand the angel saying, God gave me a signthat bird, that I have to be totally trustful and rely on God like the young of the strange bird which was fed by the other bird. According to the sign I received from God, you were to help me so why didnt you help me? The angel answered. "Yes, the sign was there for you, but it was meant to show you how you have to help others not that you just wait for them to help you.

What should we do? What should I do? What is the deepest source of the true joy?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino

2 Sunday of Advent - John the Baptist in the Mall

I heard a story about a man in one of those high price shopping malls like the International Plaza in Tampa. The man caused quite a commotion among those doing their Christmas shopping. He would sit near a beautifully decorated fountain near the mall?s food court and would talk to people who would relax on the benches next to him. He wasn?t offensive, not really. In fact, there was a certain kindness and sincerity about him that drew people to him.

But he was not good for business. He would ask people why they spent so much money for Christmas, and why they allowed themselves to become so obsessed and stressed over this tinseled holiday. Sometimes he would tease, ?We like out Christmas with a lot of sugar on it, don?t we?? Then he would say, ?Christmas is about hope and love, isn?t it? The best gifts we can give is to give kindness and compassion to each other. Why don?t you forgive or reconcile with family or friends you?ve lost over the years? The Spirit of the Christ child should embrace the entire year, not just Christmas.?

Many of the people who listened to him would nod in agreement. Some decided to quit shopping for the time being and go home to be with their families. Others went and bought an extra toy or some clothes for charity. Some even left the mall to find a quiet place for a few moments of prayer.

Soon, word got out to the store managers about this man. They had security escort him from the premises. They realized that he wasn?t really hurting anyone. But he had to go, they said. He was ruining everyone?s Christmas.

If John the Baptizer were to appear in our time and place, he probably would go to a mall during Advent and say the same type of things as the man sitting near the fountain. He would talk about the coming of Christ and about God becoming one of us. He would shake us out of our Christmas routine and syrupy feelings with the notion that peace on earth to all people of good will means forgiving those who have offended us. He probably would remind us that we say ?Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,? when we say the Lord?s Prayer, and then tease us by asking us whether we mean it.

The preaching of John the Baptist would not be conducive to the Christmas Spirit. His only concern would be preparing the way for the Savior. He would warn us that all the other things that we busy our lives with, particularly at Christmas, are secondary and superfluous to the reason for the celebration.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

1 Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16;
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2;
Luke 21:25-28,34-36
Why God does need our hands?

A Master and his disciple were walking through the deserts of Arabia. The Master used each moment of the journey to teach his disciple about faith. ?Entrust your things to God, because He never abandons His children? ? the master repeated many times during the day.

When they camped down at night, the Master asked the disciple to tie the horses to a nearby rock. The disciple went over to the rock, but then remembered what he had learned that afternoon. ?The Master must be testing me. The truth is that I should entrust the horses to God." And he let the horses loose.

In the morning he discovered that the animals had run off. Indignant, he sought out the Master.
?You know nothing about God! Yesterday I learned that I should trust blindly in Providence, so I gave the horses to Him to guard, and the animals have disappeared!?

?God wanted to look after the horses,? answered the Master. ?But at that moment he needed your hands to tie them up and you did not lend them to Him.?

Last week we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday of the outgoing Church year. Today is the First Sunday in Advent and the beginning of a new Church year. Why are these four weeks before Christmas called "Advent"? The term comes from a Latin word ad-veniat - meaning 'coming or arrival'. We immediately think it refers to the coming of Jesus at Christmastime and that is correct. But it is not the whole story. In fact, we can speak of three comings of the Lord and all are referred to in the Scripture readings today.

Three 'comings'

The First Reading from the prophet Jeremiah refers prophetically to the coming of Jesus, our King and Saviour: "I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land." That is the coming of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, which we anticipate and prepare for in these four weeks. That is what we may call the First Coming.

The Gospel speaks in ominous terms of the end of the world and what we refer to as the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

However, there is still a third coming which forms an important and indispensable link between the First and Second Comings. That is what is spoken about in the Second Reading. It is the welcoming of Jesus into our lives in the here and now. This is something which takes place every day. By it we both acknowledge the First Coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and prepare for the Second Coming at an unknown future date.

For this reason we have to stay alert and be watchful because He is constantly coming even in the most invisible ways. This is the deepest sense of Advent, the time of waiting for God.

Efrem Jonescou a writer did make a special arrangement of the Samuel Beckett famous play ?Waiting for Godot?.

In his play, Jonescou writes about a certain man living on a huge mountain of garbage. He is busy, but in reality he is doing nothing. Many people visit him regularly. They try to invite him to the restaurants or to a cinema, or to their houses but he constantly and stubbornly refuses to do anything else, explaining that he is waiting for the mysterious Mister Godot. He can do nothing else because Mister Godot could come at anytime and so he has to be ready. We ?as Catholics- we are similar to this man, especially during the time of Advent; we are waiting maybe not for Mister Godot but for God until He comes ?